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Biophysicist is first professor recruited through ‘Game Changer’ initiative

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Northeastern has recruited its first faculty member through the university’s “Game Changers” initiative: Herbert Levine, a scholar of quantitative biology and biophysics, who will also become Northeastern’s first National Academy of Sciences member.

Levine will have joint appointments in the College of Science and College of Engineering, joining as a tenured faculty member in January 2019. Levine, who comes to Northeastern from Rice University, will hold joint appointments in College of Engineering’s Department of Bioengineering and the College of Science’s Department of Physics.

Photo courtesy of Herbert Levine

Levine expressed excitement about joining Northeastern next year and underscored that the university is willing to push conventional boundaries and innovate in the classroom and research lab. He said that a conversation with Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun helped solidify his decision to join the university.

“Northeastern is an exciting place to be as we try to rethink how universities are doing things, how education is going to work, how the internet is going to change everything,” he said. “Why not go to a place that’s thinking about how to be at the leading edge of all those questions?”

Announced in fall 2017, “Game Changers Fund” is a $50 million initiative to recruit leading scientists and scholars at the frontiers of discovery and innovation. The initiative aims to increase the impact of the university’s educational and research enterprise by expanding its faculty ranks at the cross-section of disciplines.

“These are people who are either on the trajectory or have already arrived as recognized world leaders in their area,” said Kenneth Henderson, dean of the College of Science.

Election to the National Academy of Sciences is the highest level of recognition for a scientist in the United States, said Henderson, who described Levine as “a world-renowned scholar, an extraordinarily interesting person, and a tremendous colleague and human being.”

Levine has worked since the 1990s to bring a quantitative physics and engineering approach to the fields of biology and medicine. His research focuses on cellular networks in the context of cancer, and his work is fundamental to understanding the biological processing of the disease, he explained.

Levine plans to establish a new Center for the Physics Underlying Mammalian Biology and Complex Diseases, focused on quantitative biology and biophysics. The center, he said, will build on the expertise of current faculty in those fields while working to hire new talent as well.